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Graham warns Obama agenda ‘dead on arrival’ after mid-term election

With less than a month until elections, U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham has been busy whipping up votes for two fellow Republicans, U.S. Rep. Joe Wilson and gubernatorial nominee Nikki Haley.

Wilson faces Democratic challenger Rob Miller, a 37-year-old former Marine captain and Lady’s Island resident, in the race for South Carolina’s 2nd Congressional District. Haley faces Democratic state Sen. Vincent Sheheen.

Congress adjourned for recess last week ahead of the Nov. 2 election, when Republicans will try to win back a majority in the Democratic-controlled U.S. House.

“If the election were held tomorrow, we’d take the House back,” Graham said, speaking before a crowd of 120 Monday at Aunt Chiladas Easy Street Cafe on Hilton Head Island during a meeting of the First Monday Republican Lunch Group.

Graham called Haley a “transformative governor” and “a new, fresh face” for the Republican party. Her election, he said, will give South Carolina the opportunity to “showcase to the rest of the country a new way of doing business.” The party is “not going to give up the governorship without a fight,” he said.

As for Wilson, Graham said, “Joe is going to win. The better Joe can do, the better Nikki can do.”

S.C. Democratic Party Chairwoman Carol Fowler responded in an e-mail: “Is the new way of business that (Haley) will show the rest of the country a way in which businesses don’t bother to pay their taxes?” Democrats have criticized Haley for filing her business and personal income taxes late.

Graham spent most of his time attacking the health care reform bill championed by President Barack Obama and criticizing Democrats for failing to reach an agreement on extending Bush-era tax cuts, which expire at the end of this year.

“I can tell you with certainty that we are going to grow our numbers in the House and the Senate, and the Obama agenda as you know it will be dead on arrival,” he said.

Obama and Democrats in the House and the Senate have proposed extending most of the tax cuts, allowing those for individuals making more than $200,000 and families making more than $250,000 to expire. Republicans want all of the tax cuts either temporarily or permanently extended.

Graham argued that extending the tax cuts across the board would create jobs.

“There would be certainty for business, and people would start hiring,” he said. “One reason why business is not hiring more people is because they don’t know what their health care costs are going to be and they don’t know what their tax liabilities are going to be.”

Graham co-sponsored legislation with Republican Sens. Tom Coburn, Saxby Chambliss, John Cornyn and John McCain to repeal provisions of the health care law. He said he plans to introduce more legislation to allow states to opt out of the “individual mandate” — a law requiring individuals to buy health insurance or face annual fines — as well as an expansion to Medicaid.

“If the Obamacare law gets fully implemented, 29 percent of South Carolinians will be on Medicaid. That will bankrupt the Statehouse,” Graham said in an interview after his remarks to the Republican group.

State attorneys general have filed lawsuits in federal courts in Virginia and Florida challenging the constitutionality of the “individual mandate.”

Graham said November’s election is a shot at a second chance for the GOP to reconnect with the American people.

“Second chances are hard to come by in life,” he said. “Turnout is important. The energy we have today on the Republican side, we need to maintain it.”

By Tom Barton, “Island Packet”